Android Corner: Retail Debut Of The OUYA Game Console
No. No No No No No No No No No. That is the word I keep hearing all around the net. With all the buzz that continues to surround Ouya, many of it is highly negative. From early backers of the Kickstarter campaign still not receiving their consoles (I did receive mine on time), to interface issues such as overscan/underscan. To Ouya’s credit, they are communicating quickly and as fast as they can, but the responses seem to be more finger pointing at DHL Hong Kong (which was a bad* idea in and of itself), among other things. Despite all these issues, how does it far up? Well, since I have had the console for quite some time already, I have had plenty of time to put it through the ringer. Allow me to discuss the pros and cons of this “promising” console…
Let’s start out positive! The Pros…
The console does have a lot going for it, especially on paper. With a powerful Tegra 3 processor pushing “decent” 1080p in such a a small package (it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand), video and games that properly utilize the console run great. The console’s makeup is pretty solid, and the controller has all the basic functions you would want, including a touchpad at the top of the controller itself. The top of the controller has a magnetic lid that hides the batteries, not elegant in its removal, but works for me. On the rear of the console you have standard HDMI, 2 USB ports, and audio outputs. One simple button powers on the console, or by the controller itself being activated. The HDMI cable is included.
Not much is special here, but I will say it works. There is room for improvement, but the basic functions work. I will hold my tongue till later on for the rest of this section.
There are several games that have been created, but that is not its shining point. The game emulators that run on the Ouyarun well, amazingly so. That is where the action is right now. The console is still very early, so give it some time. It is not down for the count yet. At least I hope that is the case.
On of the alternative uses for the Ouya, especially at an early time while other aspects mature, is running non-standard software such as XBMC. XBMC runs very* well on the Ouya, and if XBMC does all that you need, this is the perfect HTPC, and if anything succeeds for the Ouya, it will be that purpose. Sure, there are other small boxes just like the Ouyathat do XBMC, with better remotes included, but it details how the Ouyawill never be a total loss in that sense. Since the Ouya is based off Android and the Linux kernel, you can run a plethora of software, even if it is not optimized to run on the Ouya. Software apps such as TuneIn and Spotify ran quite fine for me.
The UGLY. Ouya Cons…
The console itself in its design isn’t too bad, the controller on the other hand, is abysmal. I really wanted to like it, I really did, but it just isn’t doing it for me. Thankfully you can attach other USB/Bluetooth controllers fine. The biggest issue for me is the feel of the controller. Unlike the comfortable Xbox 360 controller, it just doesn’t conform to the contours of the human hand. The shoulder buttons and triggers are on a flat 90 degree angle with the top of the controller, resulting in an awkward holding position to use them. I can deal with this, but just shouldn’t have happened in the first place. The trackpad works OK, but not all the time, but is a nice afterthought and useful sometimes. One of my and others biggest gripes? Overscan. Simply put, the overscan/underscan disability of the console for a huge portion of users is awful. If you are lucky enough that your TV manufacturer has some nice tricks up its sleeve to adjust this, great. My 2009 era Sony TV? Not so much. My TV’s sizing options just didn’t give it the kick in the pants it needed, and the option in the Ouya menu to compensate for this flaw, just plain doesn’t work. Some also complain that the buttons get stuck under the controller faceplate, which has happened to me a few times, but not enough to be a huge problem.
The interface…Let’s just get this out in the open, its atrocious. It’s slow, too basic, and lacks polish. Graphics support and benchmark scores for its graphical performance are subpar. There is time for it to improve, and it likely will, but not a great start. Thankfully updating an Android console should be a simple affair. I had big issues, which annoyed me to no end, when installing alterntive software in the “Make” section. Every* time I would enter that menu, the default action would prompt me that I do not have something installed (related to development), hitting ok worked, so that I could go to my alternative applications. A minor hiccup that really annoyed me. The overscan also really torked me off when using the browser and settings menu, but that is something that hopefully will be fixed.
Here is another huge downside. The Ouya’s native games, just don’t have a set of killer titles that define the console. The console is still in early stages from its retail release, but, the launch titles are what defines the console, and they are just not there. The emulators and manual .apk game installs fill the gap, but this is something average users won’t get or don’t realize they can do. The controller support on some games, especially those ported from mobile varieties of Android, can be just inconsistent, especially on controller lag.
All the above aside, and given the consoles software intentions, promised “alternative” software is just not there yet. This includes official support for many emulators as well as XBMC. Early on, support was announced for OnLive, but we all know how that turned out. There is a lot of potential for this area, but it’s just not there yet
The verdict: 6 months of community service!
Ouya has TONS of promise, it really does. But, it’s disastrous start is enough to even hurt early backers and philosophical proponents of Linux and Open Source, such as myself. I am still holding out hope for this little guy, but my initial enthusiasm has waned quite a bit. For Non-Backers of the Kickstarter campaign, I can only assume these frustrations and thoughts are amplified. So, in summary, Ouya is not doomed, but it has a LOT to catch up on, and lots of broken dreams to mend. I do regard the console as a very important step in console gaming, at time when many are losing faith in the traditional game console companies (cough* Microsoft).
So what are YOUR thoughts? Questions? Comments? Leave them below.